Category Archives: Religion

Ramadan Observance and the World Cup: A Major Decision for Muslim Athletes

soccer ramadan copyRamadan, the Muslim month of fasting that is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, begins this Saturday, June 28th. Adult Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sexual relations during the daylight hours and instead use the time to refocus their minds and spirits on God while practicing self-sacrifice. This is an extremely daunting task for most people, especially in today’s society where instant gratification is ferociously embraced.  However, for modern Muslim athletes, Ramadan poses an especially large challenge. With major international sporting events taking place such as the World Cup this year and the Summer Olympics in other years, how do the devout observe the month while maintaining such a high level of physical activity? Continue reading

The Summer Solstice: From Ancient Celebration to a Modern Day at the Beach

Earth-lighting-summer-solstice_ENSaturday, June 21st, marks the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and that means the first day of summer! For many, it’s time for barbecues, pool parties, camping trips and vacations at the beach, but for some, the solstice is a much more spiritual day steeped in ancient traditions. How did our ancestors celebrate this first day of the warm season? Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Kheer: Ancient Indian Rice Pudding

Making_of_KheerThis week we’re bringing you a sweet, exotic treat from India. Kheer is a rice pudding made in several variations across South Asia and of course, it has a history! Also called payasam, this ancient dessert comes from the Hindi culture and is most often seen at ceremonies, feasts and celebrations, although it can easily be enjoyed any time of year. Continue reading

May the Force Be With You: AntiquityNOW Celebrates International Star Wars Day

starWarsDay Marking this day, AntiquityNOW is launching a Science Fiction section on antiquitynow.org to explore how ancient motifs have influenced this popular genre.   

Today is International Star Wars Day.  May the Force (that’s right, it’s a spin on May 4th) be with you.  What is the enduring power of these movies?  Is it the storytelling, the intergalactic characters or perhaps the dazzling visuals? Yes to all.  But there is more at play. George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars series, has spoken frequently of how his personal interest in the metaphysical has informed his movie-making. Having been a long-time friend of the late American mythologist Joseph Campbell, Lucas found a mystical purpose in the magic of film.  “I’m telling an old myth in a new way,”[1] he said in a 1999 interview about Star Wars with PBS TV’s Bill Moyers. He describes this telling as a “kind of immaculate realism in a totally unreal and fantasy world.”[2] Many have suggested that his films are embedded with a religious undercurrent. But Lucas professes the most ecumenical embrace of spiritual ideals and dismisses any ties with a particular religion. For example, the Force was never intended to represent a specific religion, but rather a catalyzing idea that could awaken young people to the possibilities of a spiritual life.  He wanted them to question and seek their own perspectives of the unseen world.[3]Yet his dialog can seem profoundly religious and even vaguely familiar to those who are among the faithful.  As the powerful Jedi master Yoda said: Continue reading

It’s National Poetry Month! Ancient Poetry and the Created Self: From Early Epics to Afghan Women’s Landays

Marble terminal bust of Homer. Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd c. BC. From Baiae, Italy. In the British Museum.

Marble terminal bust of Homer. Roman copy of a lost Hellenistic original of the 2nd c. BC. From Baiae, Italy. In the British Museum.

Throughout time, poetry has been one of the most evocative of art forms.  From ritual chanting and epic histories to love sonnets and modern free verse, poetry has represented the essence of what it is to be human.  Since April is National Poetry Month in the United States, let’s take a look at the origins of this artistic device.  As well, we’ll observe a unique poetry tradition recast with a 21st century perspective. We’ll see how poetry is giving voice to women in Afghanistan, who as with early cultures that forged their identities in verse, are tapping the extraordinary power of poetry to create their own sense of “self.” Continue reading

Easter, Resurrection and Chocolate Bunnies: Social Marketing Through the Ages

Image courtesy of Toelstede (Wikipedia-Name Nyks).

Image courtesy of Toelstede (Wikipedia-Name Nyks).

Easter is one of the holiest of holidays for Christians.   And with Easter’s roots in antiquity, we can see why the symbolism of this holiday continues to give succor and hope to believers today. But Easter is also a holiday that resonates for secular audiences.  You just have to know your market.

Easter derives its name from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. As happened with many pagan holidays, early Christians saw an opportunity.  Around the second century CE they began absorbing Eostre’s meaning into their own story of Christ’s death and resurrection.  It was the holiday that spoke to the core of the human experience:  that death was merely transitory and that life—whether in this world or the next–prevailed.  So the most heralded and cherished concept of the Christian faith became entwined with Eostre, which itself commemorated life triumphing over death.  By correlating the stories over time, the fledgling Christian church not only gained a popular holiday, but also converts.  Forget today’s marketing calibrations for brand loyalty, return on investment and predictive validity.  This early social marketing by enterprising Christians is a case study of excellence in branding.  What better than a holiday celebrating life over death?  What smarter business plan than capitalizing on the success and market share held by your competitor, in this case, Eostre celebrants? Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Green Borscht With Matzah for a Multi-Cultural Passover

Green nettle soup in a bowl with a spoon isolated on white background

Monday night, April 14th, was the first night of Passover, the eight-day festival celebrated by Jews around the world to commemorate the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The start of the holiday always corresponds to the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Continue reading

Music Origins: Mesopotamia, American Gospel and the Neurology of Faith, Part I

Mesopotamia instrumentsThrough the centuries many forms of music have arisen out of mystical or spiritual ardor:  Indian ragas, Japanese Shinto music, Madih nabawi or Arabic hymns, the classic liturgical anthems of Europe and American gospel.  Whether by the pounding of drums or the sonorous stones of Stonehenge or the arpeggios echoing against ancient cathedral walls, worship through music has defined civilizations from early times.  What is this power in music that moves humans to seek their deities in notes, rhythms and sounds? Let’s look at two very different cultures with surprisingly similar perspectives. Continue reading

The Strange and Mysterious Origins of April Fools’ Day

aril foolsIt’s April Fools’ Day and whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a joke, today will hopefully be a day for laughter and good-natured conviviality. This holiday has a strange history that may reach all the way back to antiquity. Before the foolishness ensues, let’s take a minute to learn how this celebration began.

The most widely accepted origin of April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, comes from 16th century France when the calendar was changed so that New Year’s Day was celebrated on January 1st (according to the Roman calendar) as opposed to celebrating New Year’s in late March or early April with the advent of spring. Not everyone learned of the change right away and people in the country, far from the cities, would have still celebrated a spring New Year. These people were mocked and called fools. However, Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego, California and an authority on April Fools’ Day, disputes this theory. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Sabzi Polo Mahi in Honor of Persian New Year

White_house_haft_seenLast Thursday, March 20th, marked the much anticipated first day of spring. At 12:57 pm ET, the sun crossed the equator and the vernal equinox arrived. Many people cheered as winter met its official end, but the date had special significance for Persians. It was the beginning of the Persian New Year or Nowruz, a time for dancing, celebrating and most importantly, feasting! Each year the holiday begins with a special meal enjoyed around the haftseen table, where the foods are symbolic and abundant. In recognition of 2014’s haftseen table, we’re giving you a delicious Persian recipe from this traditional meal that you can enjoy in your home year-round. It’s never too late to celebrate and learn about the cuisine of an ancient culture! Continue reading